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In a city that is being systematically razed and rebuilt in steel, it’s always refreshing to see an environment that lives comfortably amid its heritage context. Neri&Hu, adept at reworking gritty 20th-century ruins in fresh, subversive ways, was just the practice to outfit the raw concrete shell of a store inside the art deco Donghu Hotel, in Shanghai.

Against that backdrop, the partners “surgically implanted” playful elements in brass, metal mesh and terrazzo, creating an inspirational interface for the young Chinese fashion brand Comme Moi.

Architects and designers by trade, Rossana Hu and Lyndon Neri employed all of their skill sets here. Within the concrete husk, they laid a floor of complementary grey terrazzo, built out in baseboards and cunning integrated furniture. Then they linked the four railroad car chambers with a continuous brass-plated banister that serves a secondary function: as a sort of picture rail from which hang mesh display cabinets, and ovular mirrors affixed with brass grips. Panels of oak flooring, set in to the terrazzo, bring in a warm tone that balances handsomely with the brass.

The big picture is easy, elegant and glamorous – not at all like the forced flash of other high-end Shanghai boutiques. That comes from the quality inherent in the materials: the smoothly poured composite flooring, the rich oak, the hanging globe lighting by Spanish manufacturer Parachilna, and a few choice stand-alone furnishings by Jean Prouvé and ClassiCon.

Comme Moi’s understated, architectural garments live rather comfortably here, behind this narrow street lined with plane trees. But if the purpose of the space were to change, you could imagine it all coming apart without destroying its integrity. Like superbly crafted yet low-key fashion, that kind of architectural adaptability is still a new concept in Shanghai. But it speaks to the future.

About the firm: Founded in 2004 by Rossana Hu and Lyndon Neri, Neri&Hu is an interdisciplinary architectural design practice based in Shanghai, China, with a second office in London. The studio considers multi­culturalism central to its thinking and process, and more than 30 languages are spoken by its staff members.

What the jury said: “This is a perfect balance of contemporary style and old-world luxury.” – John Tong

Location: Shanghai, China ­

Designers: Neri&Hu Design and Research Office, Shanghai

Team: Rossana Hu and Lyndon Neri, with Xiaowen Chen, Lili Cheng, Nicolas Fardet, Feixia Huang, Christine Neri, Litien Poeng, Dirk Weiblen and Anqing Zhu

Winner: Commercial and Institutional
2016 AZ Awards Winner: Best Commercial Interior

Neri&Hu transforms a concrete shell in Shanghai into a luxurious, yet playful flagship store for fashion brand Comme Moi.

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